A testis that fails to descend into the scrotum before birth
- Present at birth
- Genetics and lifestyle are not significant factors
Normally, the testes descend from the abdomen into the scrotum before birth. In about 4 in 100 boys, one testis (or rarely both) fails to move down. In 2 in 3 affected boys, an undescended testis moves into the scrotum within a year, but the rest may need surgery to correct the condition. Males who have had an undescended testis are at greater risk of developing cancer of the testis in adulthood. They may also be at risk of impaired fertility (see Male infertility).
It can be difficult to determine if your son has an undescended testis because the testes of most young boys retract up into the abdomen in response to cold or touch. However, you should consult the doctor if you are concerned.
What might be done?
Examination of the testes is part of the routine check of a newborn boy. If a testis has not descended, regular checks will be carried out until 1 year of age. After this age, the testis is unlikely to descend spontaneously, and treatment is needed.
The condition is usually treated with a small operation called an orchidopexy, in which the testicle is moved down into the scrotum and secured with stitches. This surgery is carried out between the ages of 2 and 3. After treatment, most boys develop normally, and sexual function is unaffected. However, fertility may be reduced, especially if both testes are affected.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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